Sustain Charlotte Defends Streetcar on FOX

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - When Governor Pat McCrory was just plain old Mayor Pat, there were three things he believed.

McCrory supported raising taxes to pay for Charlotte public transportation; local leaders, not state legislators, decide city policy; and find creative ways to fund economic development project (remember Time Warner Cable Arena).

Now, due to his stance on the streetcar, some think McCrory has flip-flopped on all three.

"I think that it's moving along the way that it should, and hopefully it will continue to remain a local issue," said Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte.

The non-profit supports extending the Lynx Blue Line north and creating an East-West corridor with the streetcar.

Both projects are part of Charlotte's 2030 Transit System Plan.

"And that's really what's on the table here," said Binns. "Are we going to carry out the plan that's been approved by voters and approved by city council, or are we going to throw up our hands?"

As mayor, McCrory helped develop Charlotte's long-term transportation plan. He also pushed for a sales tax increase to pay for public transportation.

When that money couldn't pay for the streetcar, Mayor Anthony Foxx began pushing a property tax increase for a capital Improvement plan that includes paying for that project.

Until now, it has been city council members debating that issue.

"And I think that's the healthy type of democracy," said Binns, "and vigorous local politics that we want."

Last week, Gov. McCrory threaten to pull 25% of the state's share for the Blue Line extension if the city moved ahead with the streetcar.

"I think rightly the state would look at that," said Charlotte City Councilman Warren Cooksey, "and look at their budget and say, 'if you've got extra money for transit, what do you need us for?'"

Cooksey doesn't see McCrory meddling in a local issue. He and the governor believe legislators can change their minds.

"By having Charlotte go off on its own with the streetcar," said Cooksey, "it's jeopardizing the promises, it's jeopardizing the deal."

But the federal government has already agreed to pay for half of the Blue Line extension costs. If state lawmakers pull their share, that could also jeopardize future federal transportation funding.

"If anything the state should be happy that the city is looking to be as self-reliant as possible," said Binns.

McCrory was asked - if legislators begin to withhold money because they believe Charlotte has cash to spare, then would that apply to raising restaurant taxes to pay for the Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium renovations?

The Governor didn't answer.



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